Happy Holidays

Because I like to put Santa hats on things, I feel the need to post something today. This year, I give you an eastern pondhawk with a Santa hat:

  

To those of you who celebrate Christmas, happy holidays! And if not, I hope you’ll simply enjoy seeing a dragonfly wearing a silly hat. :)

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

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Happy Holidays from DW!

Happy holidays everyone!  I hope this post finds you well, with people you love, and happy.  And because I love to put Santa hats on insects and spiders, I give you this year’s santified arthropod, Saltie Santa:

Santa saltie

Santified is a word, right?  :)

Enjoy your day, wherever you may be!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Friday 5: Holiday Shopping for That Special Entomologist on Your List

The holidays are approaching and everyone is about to make a mad dash to shopping centers to do Christmas shopping.  Me, I do most of my shopping online or make handmade gifts just so I don’t have to brave the malls and other stores before Christmas.  (I hate, hate, hate malls in general, but when you have to walk half a mile across the parking lot only to face panicked, stressed hoards of people…  No thank you!)  For those of you with that special entomologist or bug lover in your life, I thought I might provide a handy-dandy holiday shopping guide for the hexapod inclined people of the world.  Behold, the Entomologist Christmas List!  Because it’s Friday, there will be the standard Friday 5 appropriate 5 categories, but there are a few choices within each category as an extra special holiday treat.  Feel free to skip right to the section that interests you as this will be a long post!

The Fashionable Entomologist

In my experience, no self-respecting entomologist will ever say no to a great bug t-shirt, so if you have a tight budget you can’t go wrong.  I personally recommend the Moth Collector tee from Threadless:

moth collector

It’s modern, hip, and isn’t white, all points in its favor as far as I’m concerned.  I have one of these shirts and can say from personal experience that the Threadless shirts are made of lovely, soft fabric and they’re great to wear.  I am also very fond of The Bug Geek’s line of tees:

weevil

I love Crystal’s acorn weevil photo and it makes a marvelous graphic for a shirt!  You’ll also be supporting a great ento grad student/insect blogger, and if you’ve ever been a grad student you know how tight cash can be.  Every little bit helps!  And don’t forget to accessorize!  Those with a little more to spend might consider this awesome, spectacularly handmade silver mayfly belt buckle:

mayfly belt buckle

It’s hip, rugged – perfect for the manly, outdoorsy entomologist.  Belt buckles are cool.  But maybe your entomologist leans more toward the girly side…  Try these fabulous handmade weevil hair combs:

weevil comb

I’ve got a set of dung beetle bobby pins made by the same woman.  I LOVE them!  Highly recommended.  And, if you’re like me, you can wear your enormous insect belt buckle AND your delicate little dung beetle hairpins on the same day and really rock the insect attire!

The Well Decorated Home

You’ll often find a lot of bug decor in the homes of entomologists, so if your special bug fanatic is one of them, bug decor can make a good gift.  Did you know that Alex Wild is having a sale on select photographs for the holidays?  The sale photos are incredibly priced, and might make his work accessible to people who might not otherwise be able to afford it.  My second favorite of Alex’s photos (right behind the whirligig beetle), this one…

honeypot ants

…is part of the sale.  Woo!  Imagine the joy your entomologist will get from seeing one of Alex’s photographic beauties on their wall every day!  But maybe your bug geek is into more graphic representations of insects.  In that case, you really can’t go wrong with a Thomas Shahan original insect woodcut, such as his gorgeous tiger beetle print:

tiger beetle woodcut

If you read my blog, you likely know Thomas’ name as one of the Bug Shot instructors and a phenomenal photographer of jumping spiders.  He is equally skilled as a woodcut artist and does beautiful work.  But buying art for other people can be difficult if you don’t know that person REALLY well.  Or maybe your recipient simply has more whimsical or three-dimensional tastes.  I love these little nickel wall dragonflies:

dragonflies on the wall

They remind me of a dragonfly swarm, so I might be a little biased.  :)  Still, how awesome would it be to have a set of these swirled across a wall?  If your special entomologist is still a kid at heart, you can go even more low brow and fun and gift this fun firefly in a jar:

electronic firefly

I can’t tell you how much happiness my butterfly in a jar has given me.  I keep it on my computer desk so that I can tap the lid and watch the little animatronic butterfly flutter around inside the jar more often than I like to admit.  It’s a great distraction when you need a quick mental break from work.  And think of how great that little firefly would look in a dark room!  This is a great little toy that lets you relive your childhood without waking up to a jar of dead fireflies in the morning.  Plus, it’s currently on sale!

The Photography Addict

A lot of entomologists gravitate toward photography eventually, so if you’re able to afford it (or you suddenly win the lottery), I’ve got a few suggestions.  The Canon MP-E 65 lens is an obvious choice:

Canon MP-E

Several of the better known insect bloggers (Alex Wild and Ted MacRae, for example) have this lens and use it very effectively.  It’s not supposed to be an easy lens to work with and might require a bit of practice, though most insect photographers won’t mind seeking out more photo taking opportunities to build their skills.  But, the MP-E lens is very expensive and requires that your recipient already have a Canon DSLR camera body.  Canon also offers a line of great point and shoot cameras that will still let you take some awesome shots, the PowerShot G series:

Canon G15

I have a Canon PowerShot G11 myself, which is two models out of date now, but I love it.  The G11 and the G12 both feature a swiveling screen that allows you to see what you’re photographing from all sorts of awkward angles, something that you’ll find yourself doing now and again if you like shooting insects.  The newest model, the G15 pictured above, is great but it unfortunately does not have the swivel screen.  Sigh…  However, the G12 is likely to start going on sale here pretty soon.  If you see one for less than $400 new, you’re getting a good deal!

I am a Nikon gal myself (though I wouldn’t say no if someone wanted to give me a Canon body and/or an MP-E lens!), so I am fond of the Nikon R1 flash system:

R1 flashes

While most people will tell you that Canon is the way to go if you want to photograph insects (largely due to that one lens), the Nikon macro flash system will make your Canon loving photo buddies swoon.  It comes with two wireless flashes that you can position anywhere you’d like along the ring – or remove entirely from the camera as needed without any special adapters or cables.  It really is a great flash system, and one reason I love my Nikon gear.

It can be really fun to photograph insects in whiteboxes from time to time!  If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly photo gift, there are several commercially available whitebox options, such as this one:

whitebox

There are cheaper models than this on the market (like the one I own), or you can make your own whitebox out of a cardboard box and printer paper for far less than this swanky model, but this one looks really nice.   My whitebox also has the whole front of the box open so the insects readily escape if I don’t pay close attention.  The whitebox above looks like a great way to both contain the insects you want to photograph AND provide a crisp white background that will highlight even the most drab insect’s beauty.

The Bookworm

You probably all know that I’m a huge book lover.  Seriously, I have 9 large bookcases FULL of books, plus a Kindle filled with hundreds more.  It would feel wrong if I didn’t mention at least a few books on my holiday gift guide!  You really can’t go wrong with field guides.  Just pick a topic that the special entomologist in your life loves and look for something appropriate for the region where he/she lives.  I, for example, would love for someone to send me either the Field Guide to Freshwater Invertebrates of North America or Damselflies of the Northeast for Christmas.  They’re great books!

Coffee table books can make fun gifts too.  I recently discovered a photography book called A World in One Cubic Foot that I’m very excited about.  It features photos of organisms that were found in a one cubic foot area over a 24 hour period – and the results are AMAZING!  I added it to my personal Christmas wishlist.  Anything by Piotr Naskrecki is well worth the money as well.  I especially love The Smaller Majority, though Relics is also a superb book.

For the right kind of person, vintage entomology texts can make great gifts!  Find a great used bookstore in your area and take a look in the insect section and you might walk away with an old gem of an insect book.  I especially love the ones that have lots of engravings in them.  Every now and again you’ll come across something really special, like a book with hand printed engravings.  These can be very expensive if the bookstore knows what it’s doing or specializes in old/rare books, but library book sales, rummage sales, thrift stores, and garage sales can sometimes yield very cheap, very interesting finds!  Plus, it’s fun to hunt for something and then find the perfect gift lurking under a pile of old toys.

The Adventurous gourmand

Last, but not least, I give you insect gift ideas for foodies!  There are tons of edible insects out there, if you know where to look.  Thai import shops can have some interesting options, such as this giant water bug chile dipping sauce:

Water bug dipping sauce

Honestly, I’m not even sure what you’d use this sauce for, but perhaps you can consider that part of the adventure!  The same website offers several other edible insects options, including bags of freeze-dried giant water bugs, centipede infused whiskey (though I really don’t recommend trying that – centipedes are venomous, and the bottle looks more like it belongs in a natural history museum than your kitchen…), and chocolate covered silkworm pupae.  Most of the imported edible insects have been dead for quite some time, however.  Let’s say you want to make chocolate chirp cookies for an insect loving giftee and you need some of these:

cricket

Head to your local pet store and buy bulk crickets there!  They’re in the reptile section usually, or sometimes with the fish.  You can also order them online from places like Fluker Farms.  The insects raised to be fed to reptiles and amphibians are generally safe for human consumption, though you might want to ask for more details about how the crickets or mealworms are reared just to be sure.

Once you have your delicious edible insects and/or insect infused beverages, you’re going to need something to serve them on/in.  I absolutely love Catherine Reece’s whimsical insect pottery, particularly her line of cockroaches:

cockroach mug

I drink about 10 cups of tea a day out of a mug just like this one!  Who wouldn’t want to drink tea out of a mug with cockroaches on it?  I am also very fond of these insect dishes by Laura Zindel Design:

insect dinnerware

The set claims to have a walking stick, a water strider, and a ladybug, though that’s actually a water measurer, a water strider, and a ladybug.  TWO aquatic insect plate options!  They’re just fabulous.  Expensive, so I am unlikely to ever have any of these beauties, but they sure are cool!

There are so many great options for the insect lover in your life!  I high recommend places like Etsy for cool, funky handmade insect things and check out the websites of your favorite insect photographers for awesome gift ideas.  Anthropologie often has some surprising insect finds, as do import shops.  People put insects on just about anything these days, so you’re bound to find something for the insect obsessed people on your list if you just look around.  I hope this list will at least get you started and give you a few ideas!

(In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t take a single one of these photos.)

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Giving Thanks

Okay, let’s try this post again! Here’s hoping the blogging gremlins aren’t out to get me two days in a row…

I have never been a big Thanksgiving lover. I rarely stuff myself silly, I hate turkey with a burning passion, and I really, REALLY hate going around the table saying what I’m thankful for each year. When I was a kid, I always wondered if anyone would notice that I recycled the list of things I was thankful for – my family, my pets, the dinner – when it came time for the dreaded thanksgiving roundtable. I don’t know. There’s something about Thanksgiving that just doesn’t suit me.  I am not a group sharing kind of person.  I was incredibly shy as a kid and being forced to talk about my feelings…  Well, I didn’t like it.  It soured me on Thanksgiving, maybe forever.

That’s not to say that I’m not thankful for things. I am grateful for so, so many things! Today I’m going to share 5 insect and science related things I’m thankful for this year. They include…

Belostoma flumineum in the pond

Upper Pond

Upper pond at Prairie Ridge, home of the Belostoma

I spent several summers trying to find the giant water bug Belostoma flumineum in Arizona. It’s not an uncommon species there and both my students and I would find them all the time on field trips. However, without fail, as soon as I wanted even 10 to do some sort of experiment, they were absolutely nowhere to be found. Imagine my delight when I discovered a huge population of them in one of the ponds at the field station where I work last month. I’m FINALLY going to be able to do a few experiments I’ve wanted to do. Exciting!

Dramatic Changes in the seasons

Fall

Fall foliage

I’ve mentioned before that I come from the land of unimpressive falls, so I have been particularly fascinated by the seasons in North Carolina. One of the best parts has been watching the insects disappear for the winter in succession. While I am sure I’ll miss going out on a warm December or January day to find a whole slew of insects like I did in Arizona, there’s something about the finality of fall, the approach of the cold weather, that I find appealing. Besides, nothing is more exciting than seeing something completely out of place. I was leading a tour group last week and actually squealed out loud when a monarch flew past. I couldn’t help it. She was ratty, worn, and hardly able to fly in the cool weather, but there she was, a whole month after I saw my last adult. That wouldn’t have been so exciting in Arizona, but it’s terribly exciting here.  Now I can’t wait for spring to watch everything reappear!

Comet darners

comet darner female

Comet darner female

You know when you’ve spent your whole life looking at photos of something, hoping you’ll have a chance to see it in the wild one day? That’s how I felt about comet darners from the moment I learned to appreciate dragonflies. They’re huge, showy, fantastically beautiful creatures, so I’d always hoped that I would run into one someday. Then I saw one the very first day I visited the field station. I’ve since learned that they’re often at the pond, so I now see them on a semi-regular basis. I feel so lucky to be close to comet darners! A five-minute walk down the hill and there they are, zooming around over the water.

Carnivorous plants

Venus fly trap

Venus fly trap

I’ve been fascinated by carnivorous plants as long as I can remember. Now I live in one of the best places in the world for finding carnivorous plants! I was so excited to see that venus flytrap up there, I almost cried with happiness. I am not a weepy woman by any means, but some things are just so exciting that you start to feel teary. I am thankful to live close to so many carnivorous plant species.

5. My job

Whales

Whale skeletons

It occurred to me the other day that deep down, I’ve always wanted a job at a natural history museum. I’ve never wanted to be a taxonomist or systematist though, so I had always assumed that I would never get the museum job I dreamed of. Suddenly, I find myself working at a natural history museum!!! Right when I needed it, everything I love to do was wrapped up into a single museum-based position and dumped right in my lap. I have awesome coworkers and I work in a beautiful place with people appreciate the natural world the same way I do.  I love the variety of tasks that I get to do and the fact that I get to work at both the swanky museum buildings downtown and the field station. Honestly, I don’t think I could ever find another job as perfect as this one. I am very thankful that I have it.

These are only a few of the things I’m thankful for, but it’s a start. Anyone else want to share an insect or science-related thing they’re thankful for? I’d love to hear them if you’re willing to share! Just leave a comment below.
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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Friday 5: Add Some Insect Cheer to Your Holidays!

It’s getting closer and closer to Christmas (and Hanukkah is well on it’s way), so a lot of people are rushing about trying to fit in last-minute shopping and trying not to go completely crazy as they deal with family.  If you’re from the northern hemisphere, chances are that insects don’t play a very big role in your holiday plans because it’s much too cold for them to be out and about at this time of year.  But you can do something about that!  Why not add some insect love to your holidays?  I love crafting things, so I thought I’d share 5 easy holiday projects that you can do to bring some insects into your celebrations!

Butterfly Ornaments

feather butterflies

One of my best friends sent me a photo of her tree last Christmas: it was COVERED with butterflies!  And she had made her ornaments too.  Her secret: those little feather butterflies you can get at craft stores or silk flower shops.  I decided to make a few for my own tree this year, and it couldn’t have been any easier.  The ornament you see above took all of 2 minutes to make!  Simply add a drop of glue where the wire is inserted into the butterfly and let it dry.  Then bend the wire to form a hanger (I simply made a V-shape in mine) and trim the excess wire.  Then attach it to your tree!  So easy, and they look spectacular when you have a bunch of them scattered about the branches.

Beaded Dragonfly Ornaments

beaded dragonflies

Another friend of mine was given some beaded dragonflies for Christmas a few years ago and we got together one day to make our own.  All you need is some thin wire (24 or 26 gauge works well) and an assortment of small glass beads (seed beads and a few bigger ones).  If anyone happens to want instructions for how to make these, I have hand-written instructions available, but if you have any experience with beading you can probably figure it out simply by looking at the example in the photo.  They look great hanging from Christmas trees, or you can use them to make hair pins, etc after the holidays if a dragonfly decorated tree isn’t quite your thing.

Gift Wrap

wrapping paper

Printing your own gift wrap is easy!  All you need is some rubber stamps (or relief printing blocks if you want to go all out and carve your own designs), an ink pad, and a roll of blank paper.  I like to use kraft paper that you  can get at office supply stores because it comes in big rolls for very little money and I like the natural look if it.  I print 4-5 different patterns on my paper, so I stretch the paper out along my table, print with the first stamp along the section, repeat with the rest of the sections until I reach then end of the roll, and then repeat with the other stamps.  One thing to think about though, something I learned as my sister, another bridesmaid, and I printed table runners the day before my wedding: if you get the black stamp pads they sell at office supply stores, look to see if they are permanent ink before you get it all over your hands.  When they say permanent, they really mean it!  (It doesn’t show up in any of my wedding photos, but my table runner crew and I all had black insect parts printed on our hands throughout my wedding.)  Insect paper doesn’t scream “holidays!” but it can still look quite elegant.

Gift Tags

Why buy gift tags with snowflakes and reindeer on them when you can have fabulous insects tags?  Just choose a heavy paper or card stock you like, cut out a shape, and either rubber stamp or draw an insect on one side!  Then all you need to do is cut a hole in the top and run some string through and you’ve got yourself some sytlin’ gift tags for your gifts!  The ones I have pictured here are all simple rubber stamps.  The dragonfly was done in red ink and embosssing powder, the flower/butterfly was done in clear ink with brown distressing powder, and the other two were done in that very permanent black ink.  I really love the look of black ink on kraft paper, so I use this combination a lot.

Thank You Cards

When the holidays are over, it’s time to send thank you notes.  Why not make your own swanky insect thank you cards?  These were very simple: two rectangles in contrasting colors of card stock, one slightly smaller than the other.  I used a craft punch to punch the butterflies out and then used a glue stick to attach the punched card to the solid card.  Then I rubber stamped the text.  All I need to do now is write the thank you notes on the back, slip them into envelopes (available at craft, paper, and office stores), and mail them off!

I don’t ever do the standard Christmas crafts because I just don’t like them, but I enjoy bringing insects into every holiday.  I hope everyone gets at least one insect related thing over the winter holidays this year!  Happy holidays!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © TheDragonflyWoman.com

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: All Souls Procession

Tucson has one of the most wonderful events I’ve ever experienced: the All Souls Procession.  At its most basic, it is simply a parade celebrating the Day of the Dead, but it always ends up feeling like so much more.  Participants (and anyone can participate) dress up in all manner of costume, create bicycle or human-powered floats, or spend months building massive skeleton puppets that they carry on their shoulders or on carts.  Everyone sort of dances along in time with the various musicians scattered throughout the two mile long procession and the whole thing ends up feeling like you stumbled into this huge, disorderly group of surprisingly cheery people honoring the dead while looking somewhat dead themselves.  Because both Halloween and the Day of the Dead are coming up soon, this week I give you my Dragonfly Woman costume that I wore in the All Soul’s Procession in 2004:

Dragonfly Woman

Dragonfly Woman. Photo by Heather Dominick.

I loved this costume, but those wings sticking out on the sides really were a bitch to maneuver through a crowd of 15,000 people!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © TheDragonflyWoman.com